In Act II, Scene iv of Romeo and Juliet, how does the character of the Nurse fulfill the role of comic relief?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act 2, Scene 4, Romeo’s friends make fun of Nurse and she teases Romeo.

Comic relief means that after a particularly dramatic moment, a character comes along that makes you laugh.  The nurse does this throughout the play, because she makes bawdy jokes and is just generally cheerful.  Also, other characters make fun of her occasionally.

Act 2, Scene 2 is a serious scene because Romeo and Juliet have professed their love for each other.  This is high drama in many ways.  First of all you have the, “ahh, that’s romantic,” touch.  Gushy romance goes a long way.  It’s also a little tense though, because Romeo and Juliet’s families are fighting!  They should not even be talking to each other, let alone kissing.  Uh, oh!  So that is dramatic, because although the audience might be enjoying the tender romance, if they have been paying attention they are also waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

There is a little humor in Act 2, Scene 3, where the friar chides Rome for going from one girl to the next, but it is mostly still dramatic.  He is reminding him of the consequences of his actions and Romeo is professing his love to be serious.

Enter nurse.  She is kind of bumbling and sweet, and tenderly devoted to Juliet but also a little bit obnoxious.  She is perfect comic relief, a typical Shakespeare clown.

In Act 2, Scene 4, Romeo’s friends make fun of Nurse (“A sail, a sail!”), and exchange bawdy conversation with her.  Romeo gets impatient with this conversation, answering thus when she asks for him:

I can tell you; but young Romeo will be older when

you have found him than he was when you sought him. I

am the youngest of that name, for fault of a worse. (Act 2, Scene 4)

Then, Romeo and the nurse exchange a witty conversation in which they tease each other.  She makes fun of the fact that he is impatient to hear from Juliet, and that Juliet is a sweet girl.  She also brings up Rosemary, the girl that he was supposedly in love with before.

NURSE:

…Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a

letter?

ROM:

Ay, nurse; what of that? Both with an R.

NURSE:

Ah, mocker! that's the dog's name.  (Act 2, Scene 4)

Ultimately, she does tell him Juliet says yes, and arranges the meeting for him.  This little exchange is one of the humorous moments in the play, and there are some.  Mercutio also provides comic relief, and so does Romeo sometimes.

A play full of drama also needs some comedy.  Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, life is full of both.  Any play needs a fair amount of comic relief to give the audience some rest, and to balance out the tragic moments.  Shakespeare also wanted to keep his audience’s attention, and entertain them.  They would know whenever they saw Mercutio or the nurse (or a sword) that some fun was coming!

Sources:
mck3mama's profile pic

mck3mama | eNotes Newbie

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In Romeo and Juliet, the characters were prim and proper.  The ladies were ladylike.  The nurse was comical in a very outspoken way.  When Lady Capulet was talking to her daughter, the nurse made a comment about sex when she told Juliet, "Thou wilt fall backwards when ye have more wit."

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